The Bundesliga looks as though it will be the first of Europe’s major leagues to resume amid the coronavirus pandemic, with much to be settled in what’s already been a memorable 2019-20 campaign.
The German Football League (DFL) announced plans for play to resume on May 9, but that return date is now expected to be closer to May 16 or 23 amid reports Germany could extend its lockdown.
Defending champions Bayern Munich lead in their quest for an eighth consecutive crown, though there are only eight points separating the top five teams with nine games left to play. Eintracht Frankfurt and Werder Bremen are the only teams with 10 matches remaining:
With European qualification heating up while Paderborn and Bremen seek to escape automatic relegation, we've taken a look at which fixtures are drawing the most anticipation ahead of the league’s return. Dates will be added when the Bundesliga confirms the official schedule.
10. Wolfsburg vs. Freiburg
Level on points after 25 games apiece, Wolfsburg and Freiburg—seventh and eighth, respectively—are finely poised in their battle to chase down the sixth and final European qualification spot.
The Wolves enjoyed a hot streak prior to the Bundesliga being suspended and were unbeaten in six domestic matchups after a difficult winter period.
Freiburg are hoping to make it back to the UEFA Europa League for the first time in seven years and are undefeated in their last three meetings with Wolfsburg.
9. Hertha Berlin vs. Union Berlin
The East-West Berlin derby was played under a Bundesliga banner for the first time in November after Union Berlin earned promotion into the top flight, emerging as 1-0 victors over rivals Hertha.
Fans from both teams turned out in full force for a historic encounter, and the fixture had to be temporarily stopped due to interference, via Match of the Day:
Few might have predicted it would be Hertha sitting closer to the relegation places at this stage of the season, but a win in this fixture—which was originally scheduled for Week 27—would be enough to lift them above Union.
The capital derby has been a missed fixture since Union were reborn in the 1960s under their current guise, and the two clubs are only narrowly divided in their personal duel for supremacy.
8. Fortuna Dusseldorf vs. Augsburg
Just as it seemed Fortuna Dusseldorf were destined for relegation, they found the form to take seven points from their last six games, having required 10 matches to amass as much prior to that.
One defeat in their last six league games has given Die Flingeraner new hopes for survival, and a home clash with Augsburg—currently five points above them in 14th—presents a big chance to close the gap.
7. Schalke vs. Wolfsburg
Schalke hold a slim one-point advantage over Wolfsburg as things stand and currently occupy the last Europa League qualifying spot, but a drop in form since February has seen the Miners digging for scraps.
Oliver Glasner has Wolfsburg in the opposite vein of form after winning three of their last six league games, though the coach is fighting history given Schalke haven’t lost at home to the Wolves since September 2009.
Schalke’s last defeat to this opponent came at the Volkswagen Arena in August 2018 thanks to a late Daniel Ginczek goal, but they’re since undefeated in two meetings:
Wolfsburg will also be desperate for points in this clash—initially set for the Matchday 33—considering they’re due to face leaders Bayern on the last day of the season.
6. Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke
Even though there are 14 points separating second place Borussia Dortmund from Schalke in sixth, there's never a time when the most famed Revierderby—first played in 1925—isn’t an occasion to cherish.
The lockdown has made for an ideal time to look back through some of this fixture’s best finishes:
This game was poised to take place the day after the Bundesliga confirmed the season was suspended, and there are few matches in football better-placed to welcome it back.
The Westfalenstadion will be an eerie place with no fans in attendance or a Yellow Wall to speak of, giving Schalke some reprieve in terms of intimidation factor.
5. Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Bayer Leverkusen
After looking like surprise title contenders for the first half of the season, Borussia Monchengladbach have slipped further afield and are now fighting to keep hold of fourth.
It doesn’t help their nerves that fifth-place Bayer Leverkusen—only two points behind—are unbeaten in their last 10 games and have won nine of those.
Journalist Chris Williams spoke highly of both teams as potential contenders for Europe’s top-tier tournament next season:
The slightest stutter in form from either club may mean the difference between the Champions League and the Europa League, and the financial implications that come with it.
4. Paderborn vs. Werder Bremen
Paderborn have a single win from eight outings thus far in 2020, 10 points from Bundesliga safety, and relegation seems all but certain if they lose to 17th-place Werder Bremen at home.
Bremen have one game in hand over Steffen Baumgart’s side, whose last home victory came against Eintracht back in December.
United States international Josh Sargent examined the positives caused by the suspension in play in mid-April:
Paderborn suffered back-to-back relegations after they fell out of the top flight for the first time in 2015, hoping a potential drop down this term doesn’t bring about a similar fate.
3. Freiburg vs. Schalke
Two places and one point separate Schalke and Freiburg with nine games left for each, and neutrals can only hope the tension is as tight when these two Europa League hopefuls meet on the last day of the season.
Christian Streich is hoping to pull Freiburg back into the top six for the first time since 2013 (when they came fifth), though there’s been little consistency in results between these two teams.
2. RB Leipzig vs. Borussia Dortmund
The two major challengers expected to disrupt Bayern’s dominance this term, RB Leipzig will host Borussia Dortmund on the penultimate matchday in what could be an effective knockout to keep either team’s title bid alive.
Despite rivalries at the summit, Dortmund and Red Bull-backed Leipzig were among those who contributed to support lower German clubs amid the crisis, per the BBC’s John Bennett:
The Black and Yellows boast a one-point cushion as things stand, and we can only hope for a repeat of the drama seen the last time these two met in December when Leipzig twice came from behind to draw 3-3.
1. Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich
Other derbies come and go, but Der Klassiker is here to stay.
Both Dortmund and Bayern made miserable starts to this campaign by their standards but have since recovered, and their last clash of the campaign may once again hold the keys to the crown.
Der Klassiker is all the more important for Lucien Favre’s Dortmund after they lost 4-0 at Bayern in November, compounded by Mats Hummels’ own-goal following Robert Lewandowski’s brace and a Serge Gnabry strike:
This fixture was just a few matchdays away when the lockdown came into place, and Dortmund—the last team not named ‘Bayern Munich’ to win the Bundesliga—have a chance to pull Die Roten back down to Earth and reignite the title race.